The year following their 1884 defeat at the polls1, Oregon suffragists were invited by their sisters to the north, who had won their own right to vote scarcely twenty months before, to an unusual Independence Day celebration, described as “the first equal rights celebration since the nation’s birth.” The “good citizens of Vancouver . . . magnanimously  tendered the free use of their city park” for the occasion. Apparently, some were more magnanimous than others because, “when it was known among certain elements that the celebration was to be one of absolute equality between men and the newly enfranchised people of the commonwealth, certain local societies refused to parade or otherwise participate in the festivities.” These elements, however, “were neither missed nor needed.”

Traveling by steamer from Portland, the celebrants were greeted in Vancouver by the U.S. Fourteenth Infantry Band and paraded to the park in a procession led by “a magnificent ship of state on wheels,” decorated with banners and evergreens, “sails furled and flag floating at the masthead,” carrying ninety-four “beautifully attired boys and girls,” and drawn by six “splendidly matched horses” furnished by renowned Indian-fighter Nelson Appleton Miles.2 At the end of the parade, amidst “soul-stirring harmonies” from the band, a group of twenty-two took the platform, including General Miles, Judge B. F. Dennison3, Dr. Bethenia Owens-Adair4, Josephine DeVore Johnson5, Scott Duniway, her son, Hubert Ray Duniway, and his second wife, Cora Parsons Duniway. Close at hand was “a superb local choir.”

Illness prevented Hattie Loughary6 from attending, so Abigail ran the show. She was, of course, a celebrity; in fact, she had been nominated for the governorship of the territory the preceding year.7 Following prayer and the singing of the national anthem, DeVore Johnson–in the tradition of the now-famous 1848 Declaration of Sentiments–delivered a revised Declaration of Independence, more amenable to the principle of equality between the sexes; the band furnished “an extended and excellent interlude of music”; and then Scott Duniway delivered the opening address. Following more music, oratory, and dinner, the celebrants reassembled for several short speeches. Abigail “begged leave to defend the men of Oregon–just a little” by noting that twelve thousand had voted in favor of the suffrage amendment the year before, and read a poem entitled “A Rallying Song,” written by a young man from southern Oregon. Next she read a set of resolutions, the last of which warned that, should the Oregon legislature at its next session fail to “bestow upon us the same electoral privileges which the women of Washington already enjoy, we will prepare to cross the Columbia River and take up our permanent abode in this ‘land of the free and home of the brave.’” Then the program was declared finished and the evening opened for socializing and dancing. “And when, as the sun slowly descended the fiery West, the good boats stopped at the docks and took aboard the visitors from Oregon, all were emphatic in their praises of the citizens of Vancouver, under whose auspices they had enjoyed one day of perfect equality before the law.”

The text of Abigail’s address, and this account of the occasion, are taken from the New Northwest, July 9, 1885.

Fellow-Citizens–for thus I am proud this day to style you: We are assembled at this hour, in the cool shadows of this beautiful grove, on the sacred soil of freedom, where for the first time in the history of this nation men and women have met together to celebrate the spirit and letter of the original Declaration of Independence, which is omitted today, not because of any lack of reverence for that immortal instrument, but to give place to a new version of its eternal principles, so long understood by us, and so graciously accepted now by the chivalry and manhood of the mighty State of the future, to which, bearing the name of Washington, the Father of our Country, shall indeed belong the proud and happy title of the Mother of our Country.

Somehow, as I stand here, in presence of this vast multitude, the scroll of the century rolls away, and I see the great occasion, so familiar to you all in history, when men who intended to use the old Liberty Bell at Independence Hall to proclaim the glad tidings of freedom to all the people in a land where not one woman was free, had stationed a small boy at the base of the belfry to give the proper signal to the man in the steeple. And when the boy cried out: “Ring, father! ring, RING, RING! The country’s free!” the old man mustered all his strength, and, giving forth the force that was intended to compel the sensate metal to answer back in sonorous sounds of acclaim, the old Bell quivered in every nerve, and shrank beneath the blow, and broke its heart rather than tell a lie!

The panorama changes, and I behold another scene, a full-rounded century later, when this mighty nation, having spread its empire to the very verge of the continent, experiences a new birth of the Goddess of Liberty; and I behold Governor Newell8, of Washington Territory, with a golden pen in his hand, presented him for the purpose by women newly enfranchised, and lo! he is engaged in signing a Woman Suffrage bill, amid the mingling hallelujahs of booming guns and ringing bells. Ah, there is no cracked bell to enter its eternal protest against the paeans of rejoicing that roll in billows of harmony over thy free soil today, O Washington! The star of empire, that for centuries had been steadily making its way west and yet west, until it seemed that its journey could never end, reached its point of culmination on the 22nd day of November, 1883, and, retrograding, has ever since been rolling onward in its eastward way, shedding abroad the glorious light of a liberty that shall yet be universal!


    1. Scott Duniway was not chastened or discouraged into idleness in this year. In the three months following the June defeat, she traveled 1,500 miles, gave forty-three public lectures, complained about inadequate financial support, and implored others to enter the field: “Where are the philanthropists who will shoulder this load and help the women on to victory by putting workers in the field at living wages? . . . There is work, and plenty of it, awaiting every woman who can make a speech. . . . Some of you are not slow to criticize your humble servant for not having done more effective duty. What are you doing yourselves?” (New Northwest 18 Sept. 1884) []
    2. (1839-1925): born Westminster, Massachusetts; entered army at outbreak of Civil War, 1861, organized company of volunteers, distinguished himself at several major battles, including Antietam and Fredericksburg, becoming brigadier general, 1864, and major general, 1865, of volunteers; married Mary Hoyt Sherman, 1868; remaining in army as colonel after war, led numerous campaigns against Native tribes in the west; destroyed Crazy Horse’s village, 1877; captured Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, 1877; accepted surrender of Apache under Geronimo, 1886; suppressed Sioux outbreak in Dakota, 1890-91; also led troops called out during Pullman strike, Chicago, 1894, and troops occupying Puerto Rico during Spanish-American War, 1898 (“Miles, Nelson Appleton”; Who was Who 838). []
    3. Benjamin F. Dennison: appointed by legislature to board of regents, University of Washington, 1866-67, and elected president; appointed by governor to three-person commission charged with revising and codifying territorial law, c. 1868; appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant chief justice of territorial supreme court, 1869-71; delegate, territorial constitutional convention, 1878 (which Scott Duniway also attended and addressed), which guaranteed right of women to pursue “any lawful business, avocation, or profession” but failed to remove gender as qualification for voting (Bancroft, History of Washington 216, 273, 279, 290-91). []
    4. Bethenia Angelina Owens-Adair (1840-1926): first female physician with medical degree on the Pacific coast; Abigail’s good friend and subscription agent, New Northwest, 1871-87; born Missouri; family came overland in the Applegate wagon train of 1843, settling on Clatsop Plains; moved to Umpqua Valley c. 1852; no formal schooling until age 12; married father’s former farmhand on her 14th birthday; son George born 1856; divorced 1859; opened school in Astoria, then millinery shop in Roseburg, 1867; leaving George with Scott Duniway, entered Eclectic School of Medicine of Pennsylvania, 1873, earning certificate as “bath doctor,” 1874; opened practice in Roseburg, then Portland; earned M.D., University of Michigan, 1880; married Col. John Adair, 1884; following death of newborn daughter, left Portland for rural Astoria; adopted two children, 1891; moved to North Yakima, Washington, c. 1893; divorced 1907; advocate of temperance and “crusader” for eugenic sterilization of unfit (Bingham; Corning 187-88; “Bethenia Owens-Adair“; Jean M. Ward, “Bethenia Owens-Adair“; “Bethenia Owens-Adair“). []
    5. (1845-?): born in Illinois; daughter of Rev. John F. DeVore, prominent Methodist minister in Oregon and Puget Sound conferences, member, publishing committee, Pacific Christian Advocate (newspaper with which the New Northwest repeatedly clashed editorially), and trustee of Willamette University; emigrated to Oregon, 1853; graduate of Willamette University; “one of the most intelligent women in the State”; on Christmas Day, 1868, married William Carey Johnson, a printer (with Oregon Spectator and Argus), attorney (Oregon City district attorney, 1858; city recorder, 1859; prosecutor for 4<sup>th</sup> Judicial District, 1862), and Republican politician (ran for legislature, 1857; state senator, 1866); mother of five; like Scott Duniway, active in Woman’s Auxiliary of Oregon Pioneer Association (Pioneer File Index, OR Hist. Soc.; Hines 550-51; Hodgkin and Galvin 75; Lang 638-39; Transactions of the Thirty-Fifth 11 [see also the Transactions for 1885, 1889, and 1908]; Republican League 229; History of the Pacific Northwest 2: 301-03). []
    6. Harriet A. Buxton Loughary (1827-1907): prominent Oregon suffragist; born Virginia; married William J. Loughary, teacher, in Burlington, Iowa, 1848; came overland, 1864, settling first in Polk County, then Salem, finally on farm south of Amity, Yamhill County; peripatetic lecturer and campaigner wrote columns for New Northwest, 1874-85; president, O.S.W.S.A. for many years; mother of nine, eight born in Iowa (two died in infancy; six made the overland journey) and one in Oregon; nurse-midwife; regarded a brilliant speaker, Scott Duniway called her “the Patrick Henry of the new dispensation”; died of stroke (K. Holmes 115-17; Moynihan, Rebel 175). []
    7. Moynihan, Rebel 9. []
    8. William Augustus Newell (1817-1901): born Franklin, Ohio; graduated Rutger’s College, New Jersey; studied medicine at University of Pennsylvania, becoming accomplished surgeon; elected to Congress, 1846, 1848; elected Governor, New Jersey, 1856; returned to Congress, 1864; failed candidate for Governor, 1877; governor, Washington Territory (appointed by Rutherford B. Hayes), 1880-84; woman suffrage first adopted in territory during his term, 1883 (Honeyman; Bancroft, History of Washington 282). []

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